When I started submitting stories, I thought rejection was going to be much worse than it has been. I opened my first rejection email in the Costco parking lot. It was from a fairly prestigious print literary journal; I sat for a moment in my warm car and read the email. Read it again. Felt an odd hollow in my stomach. Thought about drinking a glass of wine. I took a deep breath and continued with my day. I still needed to buy chicken thighs and Capri Suns, three pounds of flank steak and some Kerrygold butter. Life went on. That first rejection didn’t kill me.
That was about four or five months ago. Since then, I’ve had one acceptance, one rewrite request, some no-replies, and plenty of rejections. Lots of rejections. And it’s okay. I’m okay. I received a rejection two days ago and felt the quick sting of disappointment before filing the email in my ‘writing submissions’ folder. Today, I was elated to receive a rewrite request. There is no guarantee that this story will be published when I resubmit, but I’m excited to approach it with fresh eyes and with editorial feedback.
I have been teaching and tutoring language arts (reading, writing, vocabulary, and the like) for several months now, and when I teach my students the writing process (brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, publish), I always chuckle when I come to that final step. Publish. What does that mean, exactly? For my students, it means producing a clean draft that we will read out loud together, and one that they will feel proud to show their parents. It’s that moment when they complete an assignment that confused and concerned them. (“I can’t write poetry,” said a student who wrote a clever and charming poem in response to a prompt.) I would never diminish that sense of accomplishment in my students, so why should I diminish my own achievements, no matter how small they are?
Rejection. Deal with it and move on. And never forget the love and joy found in the process, the thrill of a blank page, or the excitement of revision.